UPDATE: Toronto Consultation on Single-Use Plastics

The results of Toronto’s single-use plastics consultation are in: Torontonians want the City to ban or restrict single-use plastics! See our recap of what’s being considered, the consultation results and what Toronto needs to do next.

More than 20,000 people took part in the City’s consultation on whether and how the City can regulate or ban single-use takeout items and more than 90% agreed the City needs to act.

What's happened so far?

Single-use plastics and take out containers are a big problem - they’re difficult and expensive to recycle, and when they don’t get into the right bins, they cause serious environmental harm. That’s why cities and countries around the world are declaring enough is enough and simply banning or severely restricting many of the most problematic plastics.

Last year, Toronto City Council took the first step to act on by plastics by directing City staff to investigate the options and consult with the public. The City has limited power on what it can ban, regulate or restrict, so their focus is on what businesses distribute, like take-out food containers and convenience carry out items.

The results of the first consultation (held in fall 2018) have been published and here’s what’s worth getting excited about:

  • This first phase of consultations had an incredible public response. More than 20,000 people responded to the City of Toronto’s survey and hundreds more participated in events, meetings or contacted their Councillors directly to show support for action on single-use plastics.
  • Overall, people who got involved in the consultation showed strong support for mandatory approaches, including bans, fees, or other bylaws, especially for the most difficult and problematic plastics.

Above: A sign at the City of Toronto's consultation event in October 2018, listing some of the items under review.

During the consultation, the City of Toronto  asked about the following materials (and heard about others):

  • Single-use coffee cups
  • Single-use cold-drink cups
  • Plastic and paper bags
  • Single-use cutlery
  • Take out food containers - clear, white and other colours
  • Black plastic
  • Styrofoam
  • “Compostable” plastic

The City of Toronto is looking at all available tools - including ‘mandatory’ approaches and ‘voluntary’ approaches:

  • Voluntary measures to educate the public, or businesses
  • Require stores post signs about products falsely labelled as ‘compostable or ‘recyclable’ but not accepted in Toronto’s green and blue residential bins
  • Require that businesses only distribute things on request (e.g. straws, cutlery)
  • Ban the most difficult to manage materials
  • Require fees to discourage use
  • Require deposits to increase collection

TEA to City Council: Don’t Delay

TEA’s Waste Campaigner spoke to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee to share our excitement about the consultation results and to urge Councillors to prevent any further delays in this process: 

"Your constituents and residents are the people who are footing the bill for expensive recycling, litter cleanups and the environmental consequences of too much single-use plastic. This consultation process has and will continue to provide crucial opportunities to hear from them about the future they want for our city.

Don’t delay this consultation any further, and find ways to accelerate it if possible. Don’t shy away from bold solutions and regulations to reduce single-use plastics - Toronto is ready for bold action, and we need our politicians to show leadership and respond to that demand."

TEA's Waste Campaigner speaking to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee.  

What’s next

At their May meeting, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee voted to move ahead with the next phase of consultations, which will kick off in Summer/Fall 2019. The next phase of consultation will include an online survey, a forum, in-person meetings with key stakeholders and a number of other approaches. Their goal is to hear from as many people as possible, and they’re committed to providing those opportunities.

Following the consultation, City staff will review the results in the fall and develop a recommended strategy to reduce waste that includes mandatory and voluntary tools and a timeline. This will be presented to and voted at Council in early 2020.

Stay in touch with the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) to learn more about the consultations and opportunities for action!